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Old Lyme boys' soccer bows out with Shoreline loss to H-K

Old Lyme — First, Ally Gleason was the assistant coach of the girls' soccer team at Old Lyme High School and watched as the girls' younger brothers traipsed about the field as little kids.

Then, last year, Gleason became the head coach of the Old Lyme boys' soccer team, one of the few women coaching boys' soccer in Connecticut. And she coached many of those former kids, as together they flipped the fortunes of the program.

"I'm going to really miss them," Gleason said. "They all feel like a bunch of little brothers. They remind me of my brother."

That's the feeling that resonated following third-seeded Old Lyme's 3-1 loss Wednesday to No. 6 Haddam-Killingworth in the quarterfinals of the Shoreline Conference boys' soccer tournament.

Because there is no state tournament due to COVID-19, Wednesday's meeting with H-K marked the end of the season and concluded the careers of nine emotional Old Lyme seniors.

"The first couple years, we had a couple tough years," said Old Lyme senior Jesper Silberberg, who played in his first state tournament game a year ago under Gleason and in the Shoreline tournament for the first time against H-K.

"We all just realized it's coming to an end now. It was always a pleasure playing with these lads. This is definitely the best team we've ever had in the past couple years. Since Ally's been our coach, we play as a team. We definitely didn't see this coming. The fact that the high school season is over definitely kind of sucks. But it's not the last time I'm going to see these guys."

H-K, which advanced to the semifinals to meet No. 7 Portland on Friday, struck first just 4 minutes, 2 seconds into the game when Colby Whitehead scored on an assist from Ben Williams.

Old Lyme, which gave up an early goal to Cromwell but came back to win previously this season, responded to tie things at 1 with 17:32 remaining in the game on a goal by Silberberg. The Wildcats (5-3-2) then appeared to gain momentum, putting more pressure on H-K and goalie Cal Braren.

Things changed quickly, however, when Whitehead scored on a penalty kick with 14:58 to play. Williams added an insurance goal with 12:38 on the clock.

Old Lyme was playing without three starters for various reasons, but Silberberg said that the Wildcats were just lucky to have the opportunity to play in the postseason as different teams in the league and in the region are forced to drop out because of the pandemic.

With the game kicking off at noon, there were several students who wandered out to watch during their lunch hour, all sitting six feet apart up on the hill overlooking the field.

"Sometimes things just don't go your way," Silberberg said.

"They've all been playing together since, oh my God, since 10-and-under," Gleason said. "They all played together. We had a couple guys who didn't play the past three years but they played their senior year. It was great to have them back. They're all good friends and that's what makes this hurt a little. This is the last day for a lot of them for their soccer careers."

Gleason said that the players immediately accepted her as their coach when she took over a year ago.

"It was just natural. It wasn't like I had to prove myself," she said.

And Gleason had a few wishes for the outgoing members of the Wildcats.

"I hope they remain friends when they leave high school," she said. "I hope they know they helped change their program. They did things here."

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

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